Litter clearing and weeding for rulebreakers? Finally, a half-decent idea from Michael Gove

Less impressive is the Education Secretary's suggestion that we should bring back the writing of lines – a wholly un-educational exercise

Share

Schools are microcosms of society. And just as most adults are law abiding so most children and teenagers abide by most school rules most of the time. It’s how societies work.

And it’s the existence of sanctions which makes sure they do. One of the reasons I don’t drive at 80 mph in a 50 mph limit is that I don’t want to pay a fine and get points on my licence. Similarly I don’t buy and sell illegal drugs because I don’t want to go to prison.

That’s why schools need rules and sanctions to make sure that the rules are adhered to. Ideally – and probably – the sanctions won’t need to be applied very often but everyone knows they’re there and that they will operate in the event of unacceptable behaviour or actions. Sanctions are not the same as discipline. They simply – but strongly - underpin it.

So I’m three quarters with Michael Gove on this one. New guidelines for teachers, to be issued this week, actively encourage schools not to be afraid of imposing sanctions and clarify what sorts of punishments schools may use.

Anything which actively helps the community gets my vote. So I’m pleased to see litter clearing, weeding, help to clean dining areas and other such menial tasks on Gove’s list of suggestions. I worked in a boarding school where ‘doing a dirty job’ (such as cleaning a cooker in a boarding house) was a standard punishment and it worked well. The pupil learned that the misdemeanour was unacceptable – and the cooker got cleaned which helped others.

Also advocated in the new guidelines is the forfeit of privileges such as taking part in a non-uniform day and that makes sense too. You could also exclude miscreants from certain school trips (the ones which don’t relate directly to the curriculum) or in-school treats.

From a practical point of view insisting that pupils report to school early or attend same day detentions is likely to be more difficult. However cooperative parents are (and they aren’t always, as any teacher will tell you) huge numbers of school pupils are dependant on once a day school buses. Any school which deliberately makes a pupil miss the bus is likely to have problems with car-less parents or those who are at work and/or unable to make alternative transport arrangements. I suspect Gove and his head-in-the-clouds civil servants simply haven’t spent enough time in 21st century schools to understand just what the logistical problems are. Few children live round the corner and walk to and from school independently as many did in, say, the 1950s and 60s.

And for goodness sake don’t anyone even think of bringing back the writing of lines as Gove advocates. It tells children loudly and clearly that writing is a boring activity and to be avoided – even adults think so which is why they use it as a punishment.  It’s a profoundly un-educational message. For the same reason copying passages out of books such as the Bible or a dictionary, both of which I have seen used as punishments in the distant past, should be an absolute no no too.

Otherwise yes, support teachers and schools in the setting up of sensible, workable, constructive sanctions so that children and teenagers can see exactly where the boundaries are. But we must never forget to aim for schools in which good behaviour and respect for others are so well established that sanctions are rarely needed. Some have achieved that. It should be the norm.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Creative Web and UI Designer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced creative web and...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity is now ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Caitlyn Jenner's first shoot is a victory - but is this really best version of femininity we can aspire to?

Sirena Bergman
The sun balances next to St Albans Church in Earsdon, North Tyneside.  

The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change

Michael McCarthy
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral